Rector’s Letter September 1916

The figures of angels in Holy Trinity Church have always intrigued me. They are simply everywhere: stone angels high up on the pillars; carved wooden ones on the clergy/choir stalls, on the altar rails and on the altar riddle posts and reredos; and of course there are angels in many of the stained glass windows. All three of the traditional archangels: Gabriel, Raphael and Michael are represented. A later addition was the large angel carved by Handel Edwards at the back of church, which is very popular with visitors.

Once, I tried to count these angels but unfortunately I have forgotten how many I managed to identify. To try to count the angels is a certainly a good activity to give groups of children when they come into church! I know that these angels mean a great deal to some of our parishioners and I certainly value the protection those on each side of the Rector’s stall give me when I sit there during a service!

However, as comforting as these representations of angels are, do they actually represent anything real – to put it simply do angels really exist? It’s true that angels make many appearances in the bible – not least in the story of the birth of Jesus – but there are many today who would see them purely as mythological beings representing the relationship between God and humanity. For example, Gabriel would represent God’s message to Mary; Michael the battle against evil; and Raphael the healing we can receive from God.

I don’t agree with this. Although I have not had an experience of angels myself, I trust the witness of scripture, and the experience of many Christians down the centuries that indeed thy do exist. They are the messengers of God (the word ‘angel’ means ‘a messenger’), and they are involved in the worship of God in heaven, they can also be protectors of human beings (guardian angels). So for me the representations of angels in our parish church speak of something very real in the spiritual world. When our predecessors placed so many ‘angels’ in the church they were trying to express all these things. They wanted us to see that the worship we offer in Holy Trinity is united with the worship offered by angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. They also wanted us always to be open to the message of God.

On Thursday 29th the Church celebrates the angels on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, come along to the Eucharist that day to give thanks for these mysterious beings.

Fr. John

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